Aug 10, 2022

Airport Lounges Are No Longer WeWork Spaces

Delta takes a stand other carriers are likely to agree with

By Ed Goldman

While the slogan for Delta Airlines is “We’re ready when you are,” the mega-carrier apparently thinks you should get ready a bit faster—especially if you’re taking up space for more than three hours in their “club lounge.”

As you may know, if you want to use an airline’s “club lounge,” you usually pay an annual fee of more than $500, for which you receive “free” drinks, Wi-Fi, food, even showers (sometimes), according to a recent “Carry On” column  in the Wall Street Journal.

Edgy Cartoon

“Drink to me only with thine eyes…”

But lately, piggish customers have turned airline lounges and coffee shops into what Claude Roussel, managing director of Delta Sky Club, sarcastically calls “WeWork” spaces, hanging out for longer and longer periods of time. There’s been some blowback—mainly from other customers, who can’t find a seat in either venue because some yahoos decided the cost of a club membership or an overpriced cup of coffee has entitled them to the contemporary equivalent of squatters’ rights.

A squatter, for those unfamiliar with the term and think it may be vaguely scatalogical, “is someone who moves into land or property that they do not own any deeds to or any legal claims. Squatters have no permission to be there as they are not paying the landlord,” according to the website, a landlord insurance company.

“This should not be confused with the term ‘trespasser,'” the writeup continues. “Though similar, a trespasser enters a property unlawfully for a brief period. States consider squatting a civic issue, and it’s different because they enter but intend on not exiting the premises.”

That said, airline club members do seem to be getting shafted. At the same time they’re being limited to three lounging hours before their flight takes off, and often receive none upon their return (where they might have enjoyed a few “free” drinks to brace themselves as they await the relatives picking them up), the airlines are recommending they arrive at the airport itself three hours before their scheduled departure time. This is presumably to allow plenty of time for TSA shoe and orifice searches and misguided customer attempts to store steamer trunks in the overhead bins.

The situation is like going to an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord and, during your fifth helping of Swedish meatballs and gravy, being told by a stern manager before you’re led out the door, “Sorry, that’s all you can eat.”

I availed myself of an airline lounge a few years ago at Newark International Airport. There was a three- or four-hour layover in New Jersey on my flight back to Sacramento from Toronto. While I was being treated to the trip by Ryerson University, where I’d flown for the debut of a play I’d written, “Jews Don’t Kayak” (yes, that’s the real title), it didn’t include any frills like having a cocktail or two in one of the airport’s club lounges. 

I decided to treat myself to the drink since I had little desire to leave the airport and tour Newark—not because I found the prospect or place odious but because Air Force One had landed just before me, meaning the traffic would be tied up as then-President Donald Trump and his entourage made their way though town to his resort (which I believe is called Marred-All- Ego).

So I paid $50 to a guy whose badge identified him as the “concierge” though he looked and sounded more like a bouncer in “The Sopranos” watering hole and strip club, Bada Bing! (I still fondly recall his asking, “Youse wanna table or wha’?”)

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I chose a table, which had a view of the tarmac and ordered a vodka martini, which cost $20. I had no right to protest—and besides, where else was I going to go?—so did something I’d been trying to teach myself to do for the preceding half-century: sip. Very slowly.

After I paid the bill (and tip) and started to leave, the concierge came over and said he had “summon to axe” me: Would I like to sign up for membership in the airline’s club lounge? As he started extolling the benefits of membership, paranoia made me think the message and subtext were something like, “An’ youse can get free drinks an’ sammiches an’ I won’t break your femurs.”

I thanked him and said, “Hey, that sounds like an offer I can refuse.” I didn’t wait to see if he laughed.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, Inc.

photo by Phoebe Verkouw


Climate change is killing us. Literally.  We each have a personal responsibility to act now.

The whole universe, even the smallest of us, is profoundly connected.

Let’s face the stark truth: The crisis of climate change plunges those who are the most vulnerable into an even deeper pit of vulnerability.

But just as we’re all connected as human beings, the poor and abandoned are connected to those who strive for gain—at the expense of the poor and the earth.

As successful people, we have a deep obligation and responsibility to take care of our brothers and sisters. All deserve food and water and a way of living.

For corporations, the time to act is now.  Let ESG (environmental, social, and governance) issues dominate our Board rooms and our collective thought process.

I am in awe of all living things and I know each of you who reads this is, as well.  We need to change our habits and work and make real changes for our common good. Ecological conversion is more relevant and urgent than ever.

Every little thing you do, every choice you make, please do so with introspection on how it affects our planet and our neighbors.  Reinvigorate the conversations about what is real wealth.

The crisis of climate change is real today. And as one of my favorite (though anonymous) quotes has it, “My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.” Let’s all connect to ensure there’ll be a “there” there when we arrive.

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